The Jungle Book was one of my favorite films when I was a kid. I remember being envious of Mowgli because he lived in a forest with animals and he had amazing adventures. When I heard it was going to be remade as a live action film, my interest was piqued. Would it be as good as the 1967 animated film? I’ve loved both of Disney’s recent live-action remakes — Cinderella and the Snow White retelling: Maleficent — so I had high hopes.
I’m happy to say that The Jungle Book live action movie is equally wonderful. It’s beautifully done and the young actor chosen to play Mowgli, Neel Sethi, has the perfect combination of cuteness and little boy swagger. (Click here to watch our interview with Neel Sethi.)
I saw it in 3D and if you’re wondering whether or not to pay the extra $3, I’d say it’s worth it. There’s one scene where I literally jumped out of my seat because the action seemed to be coming right down on me. The cinematography is spectacular and the 3D enhances the beauty of the jungle.
Animal lovers will be happy to know that the animals were all done using photo-real characters, which look just like real animals but are provided by technicians and artists. To see some of the voice talent and the lifelike animal characters they portray, click here.
The story is similar to the animated version, but has a few differences. Mowgli was found in the jungle as a toddler by a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and given to a mother wolf (Lupita Nyong’o) to raise. When Shere Khan (Idris Elba), a man-hating tiger, realizes that the man cub is still in the jungle, he decides to kill him and nothing will stop him.
That’s when it gets a little scarier than the animated version. Mowgli’s animal friends try to protect him from the vicious tiger, but there are some scary and violent scenes resulting in casualties. Whereas the animated movie is fine for any age, parents might want to hold off on this one if their children are very young — the movie is rated PG in most provinces — parents will know best what their own children can handle.
Bagheera decides Mowgli has to go to live with other people — for his own safety and for the safety of his wolf family — which has also been threatened by Shere Khan. That’s when the adventure begins.
While travelling to find the man village, Mowgli comes across all kinds of animals, including elephants, a snake, apes, monkeys and best of all, Baloo the bear. He’s a definite audience favorite who got a lot of laughs during the screening I attended.
He convinces Mowgli to help him obtain honey to store for winter hibernation. As the voice of Baloo, Bill Murray provides just the right amount of cunning to make the bear hilarious as he tricks Mowgli into doing his work. The lovable, lazy bear and Mowgli grow fond of each other, as witnessed in the classic scene in which Mowgli sits on the bear’s belly as they float down a river singing “The Bare Necessities” together.
The ending to this one is somewhat different from the original, and I have to say, I liked this one better. Overall, this is a magical movie that’s going to be a favorite for many children, especially if they love animals and being outdoors. Even if they don’t, this may open their eyes to a whole new world.
The Jungle Book opens today and is available in 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D in theaters across Canada. ~Alexandra Heilbron